Impaired acquisition of classically conditioned fear-potentiated startle reflexes in humans with focal bilateral basolateral amygdala damage
Number of pages
SourceSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10, 9, (2015), pp. 1161-1168
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI KLP
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
SubjectExperimental Psychopathology and Treatment
Based on studies in rodents, the basolateral amygdala (BLA) is considered a key site for experience-dependent neural plasticity underlying the acquisition of conditioned fear responses. In humans, very few studies exist of subjects with selective amygdala lesions and those studies have only implicated the amygdala more broadly leaving the role of amygdala sub-regions underexplored. We tested a rare sample of subjects (N = 4) with unprecedented focal bilateral BLA lesions due to a genetic condition called Urbach–Wiethe disease. In a classical delay fear conditioning experiment, these subjects showed impaired acquisition of conditioned fear relative to a group of matched control subjects (N = 10) as measured by fear-potentiation of the defensive eye-blink startle reflex. After the experiment, the BLA-damaged cases showed normal declarative memory of the conditioned association. Our findings provide new evidence that the human BLA is essential to drive fast classically conditioned defensive reflexes.
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